ELFIN BOW // WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES? // FRUITS DE MER RECORDS

I rarely review singles these days, as I just don’t have the time, but when I heard this I was just blown away – so consequently reviewed all four FdM singles I was sent. I already have multiple versions of this song, as I have long been a fan of Fairport Convention (just checked, I have 44 of their albums!), and this is a song that will always be associated with the incredible Sandy Denny. But, Elizabeth Kearney aka Elfin Bow, has produced what is to my ears the best version by anyone else. Her vocals are pure and clear, the reverb is just right, with an arrangement including orchestra that has taken the song to new heights. Singing a song so closely associated with one artist is always a risk, but here it has most definitely paid off and I can see that I am going to have to discover more by Elfin Bow, as this is simply wonderful. That there is another song on the single, “The Wisdom”, was almost overlooked due to the majesty of the other, yet the way this is totally different, being far more folky and simple with clearer vocals, also makes this a delight. I have been playing these two songs on repeat and if you only buy one vinyl single this year, this decade, it has to be this one. I can only say that this is worth 10/10 as anything higher is a mathematical impossibility, but one almost wishes that it was possible to create a new construct of a higher value, as this is worth it. Simply incredible.

10/10 by Kev Rowland

TOUCH // WE FEEL FINE // FRUITS DE MER RECORDS

Apparently, FRUITS DE MER was originally intended as being a 7” reissue label, and after only ten years of existence, they have finally released their first one. Touch released just one album in 1969, and had such an impact on label boss Keith that he copied the band’s logo onto every surface he could. Here we have two songs taken from the album, and a third “We Finally Met Today” which was recorded for an aborted 1968 single and here makes its first appearance on vinyl. This is manically over the top, loads of guitar, and if anyone really wants to understand psychedelic progressive madness then this is the place to go. 7/10

So, four vinyl singles, all being released in December. All worth getting, but one of those is an absolute classic which your ears will never forgive you for missing.

e you a clear indication of why this album is more rock-based. It all comes down to the songwriting.”

The album title may also upset some people if they understood the origins as well. “It’s a verse from the Bible,” Nergal reveals. “It’s actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it’s sacrilege to the extreme.” No strangers to controversy, Behemoth is back with an album that while not exactly essential, is still pushing all the buttons in the right place.

7/10 by Kev Rowland

SAMUEL MARTINELLI – CROSSING PATHS – INDEPENDENT

Samuel is a Brazilian-born drummer currently based in New York, and here he is taking the Latin styles of his homeland and mixing and melding them with jazz in a way that is both inventive and inviting.

There is a lightness and deftness of touch in his playing, and while he keeps everything moving from the back, he rarely takes the lead himself and concentrates more on drums than adding additional layers of percussive complexity. Six of the eight songs are originals, and by having a simple quartet of Claudio Roditi (trumpet, flugelhorn), Marcus McLaurine (bass) and Tomoko Ohno (piano). The musicians all have considerable history behind them, with Claudio best-known for working with Dizzy Gillespie, and they bounce ideas off each other, dropping in and out of taking leads, and letting each other have plenty of room to breathe. It just isn’t possible to listen to this without a smile, and gently nodding the head as this is what jazz is all about, great musicians just playing and having fun.

For a debut album, this is an incredibly enjoyable release: we are going to be hearing a great deal more from Samuel Martinelli, which is definitely a name to keep an eye on. 8/10 by Kev Rowland

SOFT MACHINE – HIDDEN DETAILS – MOONJUNE RECORDS

There can be few British bands that can say that they have had as much impact on music as the mighty Softs, and here a mere 37 years after their last studio album they are back with a new one. Originally formed in 1966, with their debut album in 1968, they have continued to be at the cutting edge of fusion and have had some incredible musicians pass through their ranks. The band officially disbanded in 1978, then reformed briefly in 1981 and then 1984 before returning as SoftWare in 1999, which in turn became Soft Works, before morphing into Soft Machine Legacy in 2004, and then at the end of 2015, they decided to drop the word “Legacy”. But given that guitarist John Etheridge, bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall were all in the same line-up(s) in the Seventies, they have a more than valid claim to the name. The only member of the band who wasn’t involved back then is Theo Travis, who provides sax, flute and Fender Rhodes. But, he joined Soft Machine Legacy as long ago as 2006, when he replaced Elton Dean after he had passed away.

Anyone who admits to enjoying Canterbury progressive rock or fusion will have multiple Soft Machine albums in their collection, and this one fits right in. John Etheridge is an incredible guitarist, and it takes someone very special indeed to step into the shoes of Allan Holdsworth, not once but twice. He is lyrical, dramatic, restrained yet over the top, simple yet complex, allowing the music to take him where it will. Every musician is an absolute master of his craft, and they push the envelope in so many ways. Jazz, prog, fusion, call it whatever you like but this is intricately crafted music that is both awe-inspiring yet inviting, eclectic yet so very easy to get inside of, and the more time spent with it the greater the rewards. Some of these guys are nearly 80 years old now, yet show no sign at all of slowing down. This is an essential purchase.

10/10 by Kev Rowland

 

SL Theory Progressively Dark (A Concert For A Group & String Orchestra) Melodic Revolution Records

The three studio albums by SL Theory are all the work of one man, multi-instrumentalist Sotiris Lagonikas. But on this release, he has restricted himself to just one instrument, drums, and is part of a six-man band, to which he has added an additional four singers on top of lead singer Mike Karasoulis, and a string orchestra. Recorded live on March 3rd2017, the band can be seen to be surrounding the ten-piece string section (conducted by Yiannis Antonopoulos), and with 21 people on the stage, it must have been quite some spectacle.

The vast majority of the material is taken from the three albums, but there were also a few new pieces written which were performed that night. The strings are playing live what was layered keyboards before, adding an additional lightness and quality. Karasoulis has an emotional voice, and here he is able to work either completely solo, duetting or to pitch himself in as part of the harmonies. There are a real confidence and sense of aplomb and achievement with this release, with the band and strings working fully together as one. Obviously, this is not the first time this has been tried, but here it really works as the style of progressive rock/metal definitely fits in well. When the band wants to crunch then they go for it, but when they want to be acoustic and gentle then the string overlay is quite sublime.

Heavy, symphonic,  majestic, bombastic, this may be a dark album in many ways, but there are plenty of contrasts and delights over this two-disc, 20 songs, 104-minute long set. ‘Progressively Dark: A Concert For Group & String Orchestra’ is a great introduction to the music of Sotiris Lagonikas, and it will be fascinating to see what comes next. Well worth investigating for all progheads into the heavier side.

9/10 by Kev Rowland

 

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